The bar for Saturday Night Live-inspired films is set appropriately low. After all, for every Blues Brothers or Wayne’s World (the diamonds of the genre), there’s a The Ladies Man, Superstar, A Night at the Roxbury, Coneheads, or many other failures. That MacGruber is as consistently funny and inspired as it is will certainly catch many off-guard. As a Naked Gun-style approach (more so in its dialogue than from a visual standpoint) to roasting 80’s action movie clichés, it gets the job done.
Will Forte stars as the title character, an ex-special operative who’s since retired after being one of the most decorated military figures in American history. When his arch-nemesis, Dieter von Cunth (Kilmer), acquires a nuclear warhead and intends to blow up Washington, MacGruber puts together a ragtag group, consisting of Vicki St. Elmo (Wiig) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Phillipe), to stop him. MacGruber’s methods are unorthodox, to say the least.
Taking a one-minute interlude from SNL and turning it into a full-length feature seems like a lose-lose proposition, but director Jorma Taccone and his scripting team have taken a go-for-broke approach that works. The jokes come fast and furious, and more often than not stick. Everything 80’s is sent up; with special nods to the Rambo flicks (Powers Boothe plays the old Richard Crenna part of the Colonel) and a host of 80’s music whose use inspires as much laughter as some of the gags.
Will Forte makes the transition to the big screen pretty well, especially during extensive monologues that he somehow made it through without laughing. Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillipe make for good foils, particularly as Phillipe, the hard-boiled newcomer, must adapt to MacGruber’s bizarre ways of handling what would otherwise be serious situations. It’s Val Kilmer, however, as Cunth that is the scene-stealer. He’s mixed the concoction of Dr. Evil and a suave 80’s villain very well.
MacGruber will appeal the most to those who are familiar with past action clichés (hell, some of them are still current) and can appreciate the inside humor of those cinematic years gone by. The spoof genre had appeared dead for many years, but MacGruber has a spirit and determination to entertain that is reminiscent of a lot of the spoof films from the glory days. For a film with a trailer that didn’t elicit one laugh for me, it’s a very pleasant surprise.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 99 Minutes
Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity.
Theatrical Release: May 21, 2010
Directed by: Jorma Taccone
Written by: Will Forte & John Solomon & Jorma Taccone.
Cast: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe